Two plagiarisms, two companies – El Financiero

There is a great debate about the effect that the widespread use of social networks has on societies. On the one hand, there are those who have seen in them a democratizing resource for opinion and a tool to reveal information about power that was previously unattainable for citizens. On the other hand, there are those who believe that these serve to spread misinformation in a more general way than in the past. Instead of giving citizens more power to learn the truth, they produce islands of opinion that make dialogue between those who think differently impossible and rather reinforce prejudices.

Something that is less emphasized is the way in which the use of social networks responds to the cultural and institutional arrangements of each society. The case of the recent resignations of two presidents of prominent universities in the United States illustrates this last point well.

Indeed, Claudine Gay and Elizabeth Magill, two renowned academics who headed the University of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively, had to leave their positions after being pressured to do so, mainly from social networks.

The series of events that led to their defenestration has a precise origin: the reaction of both to clear anti-Semitic demonstrations by student groups in the two university communities, as a reaction to the terrorist attacks by the Hamas group on Israel and the subsequent war response.

Both presidents were not clear in their condemnation of these demonstrations, which caused the indignation of a large part of American society. The two had to appear before Congress – along with the president of MIT – where they could not respond with sufficient ethical clarity as to whether they strictly condemned calls for the genocide of Jews.

Elizabeth Magill resigned almost immediately but the presidents of Harvard and MIT did not.

However, Claudine Gay had to do so this week also due to accusations of academic fraud. Although she attempted to defend herself, the evidence against her was indubitable and her institutional weakness so clear that she had no choice but to resign.

For those who think his resignation was fair, the episode shows the institutional strength of American society and the virtue of the use of social networks.

The comparison with the most notorious case of plagiarism in Mexico is inevitable. It is a fact that the evidence that the minister of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Yasmin Esquivel, plagiarized her bachelor’s thesis is more compelling than that of the case of the president of Harvard. Despite that, Minister Esquivel remains in her position.

The difference in the fate of both may tell us a lot about the way in which these types of matters are processed and how the Law is applied in the United States and Mexico.

American anthropologist Ruth Benedict distinguished between shame and guilt cultures to address instances of inappropriate behavior and to resolve conflicts. Whatever corresponds to the United States, it seems that in Mexico we no longer feel guilt or shame.